There is more to Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats than their scintillating performance The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon that had even the affable host gushing over them. Their music just isn’t intended to move you physically and have you dancing, as Fallon exclaimed in introducing the band, but at the heart of their self-titled debut album is a long trek towards redemption. While so many artists may focus on the darkness that overcame them or to use music as the medium to express their anger, regret, and disappointment, frontman Nathaniel Rateliff goes in a different direction. Sure, the album contains songs that could be considered defeatist and regretful lyrically, but Rateliff & The Night Sweats tell these stories through music that is cool, vibrant, and positive. For instance, the knee-slapping, barn-burning “S.O.B” speaks to the power of addiction while the raucous opener “I Need Never Get Old” and the soulful “Trying So Hard Not to Know” tell stories of infidelity but in a way that is euphoric.
In addition, similar to what Timothy Showalter (Strand of Oaks) did on the powerful Heal, Rateliff isn’t pointing fingers. Instead, he accepts responsibility and part of the blame for the events that have passed and the mistakes that have been made. As such, he’s the one who forgives or seeks forgiveness and takes dire circumstances and turns them into something positive. This is reflected in the smooth, soul tune “I’ve Been Failing”, where in one breath Rateliff sings, “I’ve been failing you”, and the next he says, “I can’t stop trying”. On “Look It Here”, there is desperation in Rateliff’s voice, as he begs for forgiveness for his mistakes. Whether he’s seeking atonement from a loved one or a higher order is unclear. “Shake” emphatically turns the table, where on this soulful, R&B tune, Rateliff is the entity from whom forgiveness is being sought.
It is, however, on “Thank You” where Rateliff’s search of redemption approaches its zenith. With a ’50s-inspired soul and R&B vibe, Rateliff sweetly sings:
I just want to thank you
Sweet baby for getting me through
Can’t hide your fears
I can’t hide mine
In spite of all this dear
I think we’re fine
I just want to thank you
The direction taken shouldn’t be a surprise for those familiar with Rateliff’s solo work and history. Born into a devoutly religious family in rural Missouri, the self-taught multi-instrumentalist (learned drums at 7 years old and took up the guitar at 13 after his mother showed him how to play three chords) moved to Denver at the age 19. There, he embarked on a solo career, crafting songs that were a blend of serene folk-pop in the same style as Sam Beam (a.k.a. Iron & Wine) to folk and Americana. Throughout his two previous solo albums and the lone record with the Wheel, Rateliff’s music has focused on perseverance, never one to be remorseful nor wallowing in self-pity.
Yet on Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Rateliff takes us on a heart-racing, body-moving, and soul-searching journey from the very first to the very last note on the album. It’s as if he has opened up his own church where he is the pastor giving the sermon. But in the altar of his institution, there is no confession nor grieving. Instead, it’s a celebration of life and its lessons. If this is what redemption sounds like, then sign me up!
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats are Nathaniel Rateliff, Joseph Pope III, Patrick Meese, Mark Shusterman, Luke Mossman, Andy Wild, and Wesley Watkins.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats is officially out on Friday, August 21 via Stax Records. Listen to a pre-release stream on NPR (US/Canada), CBC Music (Canada), Guardian (Europe), and Rolling Stone Australia (only until Friday). Pre-order the album at the band’s online store (vinyl/CD), iTunes, and Amazon.
Since July, the Colorado band has experienced a surge in their popularity. Their Facebook likes have increased threefold and their Twitter followers have more than doubled in a month since we featured “S.O.B” on The Matinee. So get on the bandwagon before it gets too full, and you can do that by catching one of their upcoming gigs (see below).
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats Tour Dates
Aug 29 – @Belly Up Aspen – Aspen, CO
Sep 03 – @The State Room – Salt Lake City, UT
Sep 04 – @Neurolux – Boise, ID
Sep 05 – @Doug Fir Lounge – Portland, OR
Sep 06 – @Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Denver, CO
Sep 07 – @Bumbershoot – Seattle, WA
Sep 09 – @The Chapel – San Francisco, CA
Sep 10 – @The Regent Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
Sep 12 – @Soda Bar – San Diego, CA
Sep 16 – @Mercy Lounge (AmericanaFest)
Sep 17 – @TELLURIDE BLUES & BREWS FESTIVAL – Telluride, CO
Sep 18 – @TELLURIDE BLUES & BREWS FESTIVAL – Telluride, CO
Sep 26 – @Mishawaka Ampitheatre – Bellvue, CO
Sep 30 – @The Fleece – Bristol, United Kingdom
Oct 01 – @Stereo – Glasgow, United Kingdom
Oct 02 – @Belgrave Music Hall – Leeds, United Kingdom
Oct 05 – @Rotown – Rotterdam, Netherlands
Oct 06 – @P.Ostbahnhof Club – Berlin, Germany
Oct 07 – @Amphere – Munich, Germany
Oct 08 – @Exil – Zurich, Switzerland
Oct 10 – @Luxor – Cologne, Germany
Oct 11 – @Molotow – Hamburg, Germany
Oct 12 – @Bitterzoet – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Oct 13 – @AB Club – Brussels, Belgium
Oct 14 – @MAMA Festival – Paris, France
Oct 16 – @Patterns – Brighton, United Kingdom
Oct 18 – @The Institute Temple – Birmingham, United Kingdom
Oct 19 – @Village Underground – London, United Kingdom
Oct 20 – @The Ruby Lounge – Manchester, United Kingdom
Oct 21 – @The Workman’s Club – Dublin, Ireland
Oct 28 – @Turf Club – St Paul, MN
Oct 29 – @Club Garibaldi – Milwaukee, WI
Oct 30 – @Park West – Chicago, IL
Oct 31 – @Codfish Hollow Barn – Maquoketa, IA
Nov 04 – @Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
Nov 05 – @Royale – Boston, MA
Nov 07 – @Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA
Nov 08 – @Rock & Roll Hotel – Washington, DC
Nov 10 – @Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC
Nov 11 – @The Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC
Nov 13 – @The Earl – Atlanta, GA
Nov 14 – @Mercy Lounge – Nashville, TN
Nov 16 – @Gasa Gasa – New Orleans, LA
Nov 17 – @Club Dada – Dallas, TX
Nov 19 – @Scoot Inn – Austin, TXe
Nov 20 – @ACM Performance Lab – Oklahoma City, OK
Nov 21 – @The Record Bar – Kansas City, MO
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